2010-03-31: Awkwardness and Moles



Date: March 31, 2010


Little seen house guest Randall meets Claire, who says more than (she thinks) she should about their predicament.

"Awkwardness and Moles"

Petrelli Safehouse

For most of his time at the safehouse, Randall has barely been seen; he suspects there may be some fellow crashers that he still hasn't met yet. It's not that he's being directly antisocial, he's just slipped back into his old habit of working night shifts here and there, sleeping during the day. Having roused himself and gotten dressed, he's wandering around and looking for his money clip— someone must have come by and moved it, maybe cleaning up the place a little.

Claire is lying on the couch, blond locks spread over the arm giving away her almost-invisible presence. I-Pod buds in her ears, the sound bleeding a bit out, she's all but oblivious as she reads a book. One bare foot, toes painted a dark, almost-black red, taps in time to the music against the other foot. She doesn't notice Randall until he's right in front of her, and she jumps slightly, book dropping to the ground to reveal its title — a weathered-copy of Pride and Prejudice.

With his attention turned mostly in the other direction, Claire registers in Randall's consciousness less as an individual, more as just a generic non-hostile presence. He would've left her to her own business and continued his search - but the thud of paper against floor jolts him out of his reverie. "Oh, sorry! Here, let me get that for you." He crouches down and reaches a hand toward it, but slows down at the last second, lest she reach out as well and they bump heads.

Hmm. Has he seen her before? In fact, he has… but it was nearly half a year ago, and her dad's Falling Down gimmick drew more of his attention at the time than she did herself. There's no sign of recognition.

Claire doesn't recognize him, either, but stops reaching as he bends down. She reaches instead to pull her earbuds out of her ears. "I'm sorry. It was my fault. You just startled me," she says, swing her legs around to sit up on the sofa instead of using it as her own personal bed or something. "You must be … Randall?" she asks, thinking of the names that Peter said might be around the safehouse, and there weren't that many men to choose from. "I'm Claire." She offers a small hand to shake, once he's upright again.

Randall nods, returning the handshake and the book in that order. "Nice to meet you," he says, finding a nearby chair and sitting down afterward. "I think Peter mentioned your name— not a whole lot else, he's been keeping pretty busy. Have you been here for long?" The search for the missing money clip is put on hold for the moment, he doesn't need to be there for an hour yet. Or at all, if they've decided they can get by with one dishwasher after all.

"About a week," Claire says after a moment of counting on her fingers. "Time sort of loses meaning when you have no where to go and no one to see, right?" She pulls her bare feet onto the cushion and wraps her arms around her legs. "You off somewhere? I know Peter said we can come and go, but there's nowhere really that I want to go around here." She makes a face. "Except I might need something else to read." She already read the magazines in the house and the newspapers and she's read that book more than a few times.

Randall, on the other hand, ran into it back in high school and took the better part of a month to plow through it. Either way, it makes sense that she'd be tired of it by now. "Yeah, I'm back on shift at Noodle Heaven later tonight… doesn't pay much, but I figure I should stay used to going out and doing stuff for when this all blows over." Which it will at some point. He hopes.

"So— nowhere to go? Did you always have nowhere to go, or did you get dragged here from out of state or something?"

"Noodle Heaven?" Claire says, with a smirk. It sounds made up, but she'll believe him. Who would say they work at such a place if it didn't exist? "I… uh." How to answer that? She frowns a little and rests her chin on her knees. "That's a hard one to answer. I've been kept from going lots of places, lots of times. I thought maybe it'd changed, but…" she lifts one hand to gesture to the house. "Now I'm here, so back to having nowhere to go, I guess. I mean, there's plenty of places I'd like to go, but I don't think it'd be a good deal just now."

"Ah, so nowhere you can go safely," he replies, nodding vaguely and running his fingers through what's left of his hair. It's been growing back since he shaved it, but without any further attention, it makes him look like he's just gotten out of the army and has kind of forgotten what having hair is like.

"I guess I'm not really safe safe, going out myself, but… as long as it's only my own neck on the line, right? I'm guessing you've got some family." She didn't say she's been keeping herself, she said she's been kept.

Claire nods and looks away. "I can't visit my mom and my brother. That's who I'd like to go see, if I could, but I don't want to put them in any more danger than they already are. Maybe Peter can bring me via teleporting next time," she says, then looks back up at Randall, green eyes not-quite-dry, his words making her homesick. "But Peter and Angela are here, so I'm not totally alone. It just feels like it, sometimes, I guess." She nods to the quiet house.

Randall rests his hands in his lap, fidgeting while trying to look like he isn't. "I'm sorry to hear it," he offers. "My family's back in California— I haven't seen them since I moved here, but I guess I should when I get the chance. So— Peter's your dad? No, wait, that can't be right." He doesn't know exactly how old the paramedic is, but surely he's not in his forties yet.

Claire snorts at that. "God, don't let him hear you say that. He's like… what, 9 or 10 years older than me," she explains, shaking her head. "No, he's my uncle. Sort of. It's not like, you know, well known or anything. I'm not a Petrelli. I'm a Bennet," she says a bit awkwardly, realizing she might have said too much, but realized it a little too late. So much for being smart and grown up. She bites her lip and sighs. "My middle name is 'awkward,' pleased to meet you," she quips.

Blinking, Randall does his best to follow along with all of that, which isn't all that great. In-laws? Divorce? There are a few possibilities that would explain the awkwardness, especially since he hasn't kept up that closely with the senator's career. "I won't ask. Well, anyway… I guess we could kill some time together later, if you wanted. Make fun of all the junk on TV?"

Claire chuckles. "I don't care, but other people might. Let's just say I have two families, in a way. One that's mostly here, and special like me, and one that's not." She smiles at the offer of killing time. "That would be good. I mean, it's no fun to watch daytime TV without someone to mock it with." She reaches for the coffee table to grab and hand him the remote control. "So you're 'special' too, I assume, if you're in hiding?"

Randall shrugs. "Technically. I can see things, sometimes… strong emotions. Other people using their own abilities— you're just a little bit red around the edges, now I think about it." Whatever that means. "I don't know why they'd bother chasing me— for all I know, they're worried I'll wake up tomorrow and start shooting lasers out of my eyes."

"Red around the edges," she echoes, arching her brows. "Is that from my emotion or my ability? My power's always on. I can't turn it off." She lets go of her legs, which she folds, indian-style, on the couch cushion. "It doesn't seem like they really care what people can do, though you might not fetch as much money if they tried to sell you as Peter. I don't think I would either." She smirks at that. "I regenerate. Doesn't make me a good fighter though."

"It could be either," he murmurs, scratching his head again. "I haven't met anyone who could regenerate themselves, but I met a girl a couple years back who could make plants grow even if they'd been cut, and she looked kind of like that. It seems to go along with living things. As for emotions… red usually means someone's angry, or maybe they just want something pretty bad. Purple just means they're hyped up, could be happy or angry."

"I'm pretty angry, I guess you could say," Claire says quietly. "I mean, maybe not this second, I wasn't, but in general. I thought I was going to be able to have a normal life for the first time in a long time, and this Alpha Protocol is taking that way from me." She sighs. "But I'm not alone, so I guess I should quit whining, right? I just want to help take them down, but I don't know how."

Randall shakes his head, leaning forward. "I don't, either… but that might end up not mattering that much. It could turn out to be just as important to just be there when stuff goes down, keep your head. Know the right people. I had a—" Girlfriend, but the past tense there is still a bit of a sore spot for him. "…I had a friend, who had a stalker with a crush. To the point of kidnapping her. Roofies, 'perfect wedding', yadda yadda. But some of us got together, we got her back safe and sound. You seem like the kind of person who'd do something like that without thinking twice."

Claire's eyebrows raise at the description of the situation. "Wow, what a sicko. Sorry about that," she says. What else do you say to something like that? "Yeah, I'd help out if I could. I'm trying to learn how to fight… I was starting to, with someone a little like me, before … well, before the Protocol came crashing down my door, you know? So I'm stuck with Peter, I guess, and he doesn't know how to fight without his powers. I think I got enough of a lesson that I get the main point… I need to not be afraid to get hurt. No one expects that from someone like me, even with my power, right?" It helps that she actually can't feel pain, but that's not something she's proud of, and she keeps that bit to herself.

"I guess not." Randall still doesn't know that much about her; a few key things, sure, but there's the long tail of trivia that only ever gets filled in over the course of time. "When they came after me, Jade and I just made a run for it… I don't think they expected that, either, probably figured we'd panic and go around in circles. Even then, there was a lot of sheer dumb luck involved— not that I'm complaining."

"They aren't that great, huh? I mean… I ran too… but I guess they didn't expect me to go leaping over the rooftops," Claire says with a chuckle. "They don't expect us to fight back, it seems, and if we can, you know, organize somehow, they won't expect that, either. Even if they apparently want to make soldiers out of us or something, weapons, they don't seem to think much of our ability to fight now. That's probably our biggest advantage. Not that I know how to fight, but …" she shrugs. "I'll figure it out. If it's what we have to do."

Wait a minute. Back up a minute? If Claire is a little red around the fringes, then Randall is feeling a little green right in the middle of things, now. "Soldiers," he echoes. "That's what you meant earlier, selling us as 'weapons'? Hell, I thought just locking us up out of fear would've been bad enough…"

"And either way, we can't just blow the whistle, either— not without revealing ourselves to the world. Now that would have a lot of scared people chasing us down… There was that video late last year, but it's like a UFO sighting, everyone figured it was fake and moved on."

"I… shit. I don't know if you're supposed to know that," Claire says, looking worried. "Don't tell anyone I told you, all right? I don't really know any details. Just something about maybe … turning people like us into weapons or something. God, I need a chart of what is and what isn't common knowledge in this house. I might be wrong. It's not like anyone really tells me stuff. They try to protect me and keep me in the dark, most of the time. Don't go telling people though, all right?" She reaches out to grab his arm, looking wide-eyed at him. She doesn't want to get Peter or Nathan in trouble on this.

Caught off guard by the gesture, Randall instinctively mirrors it, looking back as he considers this. "Are they worried there might be a mole or something? God, I hope not— things are hard enough as it is, we need to be able to trust each other. Yeah, I'll keep quiet about it unless you tell me otherwise."

Claire's eyes widen at the mention of a mole. She didn't even think of it. And he could be one. "I … I don't know. I just assumed it was something anyone in the house knew, but I guess not. I'm usually the last one to know things, so I just figured…" She lets go of his arm and picks up her book, holding it against herself as if it might protect her — from the possibility of a mole, from Protocol, from the world. "I'm … gonna go…" she says awkwardly, glancing toward the hallway. "It was nice meeting you, Randall."

Oh, well, that's just brilliant. There probably isn't any mole, but now he's gone and spooked her with the idea. And her uncle will probably come around later and give him a hard time about it. "Yeah, uh, you too, Claire," he mumbles under his breath. "I'd better get going myself." With the money clip still AWOL, it'll mean sneaking his way through public transportation one way or another, but right now that's looking like about the safest thing he could be doing.

"Have fun at the Noodle House," Claire murmurs, trying to be polite. She retreats, taking a few steps backwards and away before turning and heading down the hallway to one of the bedrooms, the door opening and shutting behind her with a soft thud.

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